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Minneapolis’ First Ward zigzags north to south from 37th Avenue NE south to Como Avenue Avenue SE and from the city’s border with Lauderdale in the east to the Mississippi River in the west. We asked City Council candidates why they want to represent this ward, and how they would serve the city. Following are answers from Elliott Payne, incumbent Kevin Reich and Thomas Wortman.
Why do you want to run for City Council?
Payne: All of Ward 1 should be represented at city hall. That means centering the voices, perspectives and concerns of folks who have been marginalized, underrepresented, and ignored in our ward—specifically BIPOC communities, immigrants, young people, LGBTQ+ folks, and renters.
Reich: As a lifelong resident of Ward 1, it has been a great honor to represent my community members on the City Council. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish; however, there’s still unfinished work. The NE renaissance that I and others worked to achieve now presents the new challenges of making sure market forces don’t lead to displacement and the loss of what makes NE great.
Wortman: I want to help move this city forward by addressing budgetary shortfalls over the next 3 years, ensure that funding and reform of our police department stays on point. NE residents want our concerns addressed and not pushed to the side because the council can’t agree on a way to move this city forward. Coming from inside the Public works Department, I bring a unique perspective to not only NE residents but residents across the city.
What is the most pressing problem in your ward?
Payne: The most pressing issue I’ve heard is ending police violence and abuse. Our campaign has had thousands of conversations with Ward 1 neighbors, and I’ve personally spoken with hundreds of them. More than anything else, I’ve heard demands for large-scale changes to how we think about and pursue public safety.
Reich: My constituents have voiced concerns about many issues; for example, affordable housing, the environment, public transportation, and public safety. However, I think the most pressing issue for my community members is ensuring NE’s continued prosperity. Over the past decade, our Ward has gone through an incredible transformation. Together, we have cleaned up our polluted areas and industrial land, promoted vast small business growth while protecting our diversity, and expanded access to affordable housing for everyone. But there is still work to be done, we must continue to promote the Northeast’s great legacy and strive for excellence.
Wortman: Public safety. Increase in crime rate /traffic control.
Please provide a list of specific actions you would propose/initiate to reform the Minneapolis Police Department
Payne: My top priority is pursuing safety beyond policing and establishing a Department of Public Safety which will allow us to invest in alternative and preventative measures that keep all of us – not just some of us – safe. I will pursue the redistribution of enforcement authority for issues that do not require police, like we have done with traffic enforcement. We need to work with the county in order to determine which laws no longer need to be enforced, like what has been done with marijuana possession. I’m looking forward to continuing the collaborative, common-sense work that I began last year when my team helped pass the Safety for All budget that reallocated millions of taxpayer dollars away from the MPD and into data-driven programs and policies. City data shows that the overwhelming majority of calls for help from residents do not require an armed response. More often than not, residents would be better served if we dispatched mental health counselors, social workers, or addiction counselors.
Reich: 1. Funding and stabilizing the police force while working with our reform-minded chief to return and expand resources for reliable responses and proven community-centric policing approaches. 2. Integrating our health, community and emergency response efforts effectively with a police department that is accountable. 3. Increasing funding for effective violence prevention programs, with an emphasis on youth outreach. 4. Increasing funding for co-responder programs and similar initiates that utilize social workers and a range of mental health professionals.
Wortman: 1. When 911 calls are made for mental health issues, we need to ensure our residents feel confident that city professionals are there to de-escalate the situation. Increase funding that allows us to staff health care professionals that will work directly within the police department. 2. Invest in partnerships between law enforcement and community organizations. With a funded and fully staffed police department we can inject our officers back into our community, increase trust in the police department. 3. Put trust in Chief Arradondo with regards to moving forward with a community-driven reform plan and a department that shows compassion for all.
How will you address the increase in violence in NE and the rest of the city?
Payne: I will work with my neighbors to invest our public resources into proactive interventions that prevent harm from happening in the first place.
Reich: We need to work with Chief Arradondo to establish a holistic, hybrid police department; one that is funded and integrates community-centric efforts as well.
Wortman: Immediate response would be with visible policing as a deterrent. Employ shared policing of other departments. Looking to the future, we make officers part of our community.
How long do you intend to remain in public office? Not just in the current position you are running for, but for future runs for other positions as well?
Payne: Our campaign is building a coalition that believes Minneapolis can and will be better for all of us. I’m in this until we get there.
Reich: Ward 1 is my home, and representing my community is what I do best; I am focused on completing the projects I was elected for.
Wortman: Eight years should be the maximum for all city elected positions. I stand by that. I have no interest in any other public office.
What would you say to developers who propose luxury condominiums that would displace existing low-density housing?
Payne: Minneapolis is in the midst of a housing crisis, so we should be asking whether new developments are addressing our most urgent needs. Right now, our greatest need is for housing that is priced at or below 30% AMI; housing that is accessible to our most vulnerable neighbors. Making room for more neighbors does not have to come at the expense of existing residents. Upzoning and increased density will be an essential part of accommodating everyone who wants to live in Minneapolis, but how can we justify building more luxury housing when study after study shows an urgent need for housing that will remain affordable for several generations?
Reich: Part of what makes NE so special is the sense of community our neighborhoods create. This is why I would not support developing proposals that displace existing low-density housing. Although I support expanding development within the City and my ward, it can’t be at the expense of our community.
Wortman: Developers have the right to build when they follow codes and zoning laws. Protecting our single dwelling neighborhoods against displacement will be something that will be continually discussed as we move forward. Communities need to be heard and sensible decisions need to be made when it comes to new building.
Are property tax increases inevitable?
Payne: People of color, especially Black people in Minneapolis, have largely been denied access to homeownership and its associated benefits. For too long, our city’s policies have been designed to benefit homeowners who are overwhelmingly white while denying residents of color those same benefits. Folks in Ward 1 have it pretty good. We have high rates of homeownership, low crime, and plenty of other great things, like our small businesses, breweries, galleries, and restaurants, that make our community a dynamic and exciting place to live. When I talk to my Ward 1 neighbors, they usually want to know how we can make our city better for everyone, not just themselves, and property taxes are an essential part of making that happen.
Reich: No, there are many factors that influence property taxes. Increasing the levy to pay for additional things our community wants can be offset by population increases, new taxable development, etc.
Wortman: Sad to say it is. The next 2-3 years we will face budgetary short falls and will need to show fiscal responsibility during this time. Community safety, helping small business, and keeping our core city services fully funded and staffed need to be our top priority.
Are you satisfied with the current state of street maintenance (street surfaces, lighting, snow removal, etc.)
Payne: The city can do more to eliminate hazards and make our streets more accessible. Snow removal is a disability justice as well as an environmental justice issue. I’m excited by the idea of the city piloting a municipal snow removal program that will reduce the amount of salt we use and make it easier and safer to get around.
Reich: Many of my constituents are concerned about street maintenance, which is why we’ve worked on new approaches. With snow removal, we instituted Sidewalk Inspections Groups, which has allowed us to have inspectors give warnings, and in the most severe cases, fines, to neighbors who aren’t removing their snow. With regard to street surfaces, I want to continue our upward trajectory of having smoother and safer roads.
Wortman: Public Works snow plowing is a topic everyone seems to think can be rectified to mimic the streets they see in the suburbs 24 hours after a snow fall. It’s not a plowing issue, it is a logistical, parking, and towing issue. The Public Works Department is constantly trying new methods, products and equipment to ease the burden on residents, they simply don’t have the luxury of having vehicles off the street. I will work with department heads to see how we can move forward with de-icing and pre wetting our roads prior to storms along with how we could speed up or change how we call a snow emergency. The more we commit to funding our core services, the sooner we see improvements.
How would you handle quality-of-life issues, like noise, parking infractions, empty lots, abandoned buildings?
Payne: I’m looking forward to investing in 311 and coordinating with city staff to improve the quality of life for all of our neighbors.
Reich: At Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association, I focused on investing in parks, improving housing stock and repurposing industrial buildings; this has and will be an emphasis of my work.
Wortman: Funding neighborhood organizations is vital for leaders to stay abreast on community concerns. Ensure 311 stays funded and is directing resident concerns in a timely manner.
Do you see the need to make changes to the city charter? What might those changes be?
Payne: Yes. I support the proposed charter amendment that will remove the police department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that employs a comprehensive public health approach. I also support amending the charter in order to authorize the city council to consider rent stabilization policies.
Reich: Representation begins with community input and ends with compromise. Our City has shown the need for change, but this is change that needs to happen through a vetted policy process. The current charter amendments haven’t had enough community input, or development to show their efficacy.
Wortman: Our current City Council is indeterminate and unclear. I support a strong mayor system. A council that can’t agree on clear ballot wording is unfortunate. I oppose the public safety amendment. Without anyone fully understanding future ramifications, I oppose the rent control amendment.